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Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) Announces 51 ft Paint Torch Installed at New Civic Space

Sculpture by world-renowned artist Claes Oldenburg ushering in new era of cultural engagement in the region

On August 20, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) witnessed a milestone in the history of this institution, the nation’s first museum and school of the fine arts, when Paint Torch, a sculpture by internationally renowned artist Claes Oldenburg was installed. This new public artwork, a site-specific sculpture commissioned by PAFA for Lenfest Plaza, makes Philadelphia home to four large-scale public works by the artist – more than any other city in the world. Paint Torch marks Oldenburg’s first large-scale work to incorporate light sources.

Installed at a daring 60-degree diagonal position, the 51-foot high Paint Torch sculpture stands on the point of its handle in a gravity-defying gesture. Nearby on the Plaza floor is a six-foot high “glob” of paint, part of which the brush has lifted into the sky in a depiction of the act of painting a picture.

David R. Brigham, PAFA’s President and CEO, stated: “This is a proud moment in the history of this remarkable institution, an extraordinary opportunity to enhance PAFA’s role as a cultural destination for regional and national visitors. Paint Torch will boost the public’s level of cultural engagement as well as achieve a heightened sense of civic pride.”

The monumental paintbrush points to the growth and vitality of American art, honoring the act of painting, from the classical masters in the Museum to the students in the School of Fine Arts, and also, in its spare but voluptuous form, the practice of sculpture, also displayed in the museum and created in the school. Its form also doubles as a torch and a symbol of liberty, homage to Philadelphia’s historical significance as the birthplace of America and a leader in the American Revolution.

Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer remarked, “Philadelphia has more public art than any other City in the nation, perhaps the world. It was the nation’s first city to create a Percent for Art ordinance. This extraordinary new Claes Oldenburg, in effect a gift by PAFA to the citizens of and visitors to Philadelphia, creates an unprecedented collection of his work as part of this rich tapestry of public sculpture.”

PAFA will celebrate the opening of Lenfest Plaza, the new civic space designed by recent Rome Prize recipient David A. Rubin of the internationally renowned landscape architecture firm OLIN, on Saturday, October 1, when the Paint Torch will be officially lit.

Image: Claes Oldenburg, Paintbrush, in site, 2010. Paper, carboard, 19 x 20 x 24 in. Collection Claes Oldenburg. Photo: Courtesy the Oldenburg van Bruggen Foundation. © 2010 Claes Oldenburg

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